How do you get the suspect in a 27 year old disappearance to confess to the crime? Fox9 reports that Danny Heinrich struck a deal with law enforcement in exchange for leading police to Jacob Wetterling’s remains.
Excerpt from Star Tribune
For almost three decades, Minnesotans kept their porch lights burning, hoping Jacob Wetterling might find his way home.
Those hopes were crushed Saturday when they learned that a longtime suspect in the 1989 disappearance had led authorities to the remains of the 11-year-old, whose abduction from St. Joseph stunned Minnesotans and changed the way parents watch over their children.
“Our hearts are broken,” Jacob’s mother, Patty Wetterling, texted to the Star Tribune on Saturday morning. “We have no words.”
Jacob was snatched off his bike, half a mile from his home, by a masked man with a gun on a dark October night. Danny Heinrich, a suspect first questioned shortly after Jacob’s disappearance and now in federal custody on child pornography charges, provided investigators with the information that led to the boy’s grave, hidden on a Paynesville farm.
At the time of Wetterling’s abduction, Heinrich lived in Paynesville, about 30 miles southwest of St. Joseph, with his father.
The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday that dental records confirmed that the remains were Jacob’s. Additional DNA testing will be conducted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
A source with direct knowledge of the investigation told the Star Tribune that Heinrich, 53, led authorities to the remains in recent days.
Federal and state investigators working the case said little more Saturday about the break in the case, or what prompted Heinrich, who has been in federal custody since last October, to finally disclose what happened to Jacob.
The Sheriff’s Office said authorities are “reviewing and evaluating new evidence” and expect to provide more details later this week.
Heinrich’s attorney could not be reached Saturday for comment.
Jacob’s abduction shattered the entire state’s sense of safety. He became the face of thousands of other missing and exploited children, and his disappearance became the driving force behind the creation of national databases for registered sex offenders.
The search for him spanned not only decades, but also continents, as investigators chased some 50,000 leads. In the end, the search ended in the same county where it began.
The Wetterlings, who never gave up hope that Jacob might somehow return to them, struggled Saturday to find words for the mystery that had officially become a tragedy.
“Our family is drawing strength from all your love & support,” Patty Wetterling said on Twitter. “We’re struggling with words at this time. Thank you for your hope.”
As they grieved, their hometown grieved with them, with mourners leaving yellow bouquets at the entrance to the driveway of the family’s home and decorating downtown shops with white ribbons.
Ellie Quarry, of rural Little Falls, who lived in St. Joseph at the time of the abduction, said of Patty Wetterling, “She held out hope right to the very end. God, I prayed for that.”
Looking at the suspect sketch from the date of the kidnapping and knowing that Heinrich was looked at early on, it seems like he could have been busted sooner.